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  Lord Love a Duck Mean Teen DreamBuy this film here.
Year: 1966
Director: George Axelrod
Stars: Roddy McDowall, Tuesday Weld, Lola Albright, Martin West, Ruth Gordon, Harvey Korman, Sarah Marshall, Lynn Carey, Max Showalter, Donald Murphy, Joseph Mell, Dan Frazer, Martine Bartlett, Judith Loomis
Genre: Comedy
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Alan Musgrave (Roddy McDowall), the self-styled "Mollymauk" of his high school, is currently on the run from the rest of the school as he taunts his pursuers and seeks refuge in the building itself - having stolen the keys he is able to lock the doors to keep them out. However, the police have their ways and smash the doors open, then chase Alan up the stairs, though most are trapped in the elevator when he cuts the power. He makes it to the roof, which has great significance for him, for this is where he first took the love of his life and they wrote their names in the then-wet concrete up there, "cementing" their relationship. But as he dictates his memoirs from a mental hospital, that relationship was somewhat one-sided...

Apparently Lord Love a Duck, the first film of two directed by famed playwright and screenwriter George Axelrod, was quite controversial in its day, mainly for its depiction of lust, although it has to be said that most of that lust was directed at the Tuesday Weld character rather than anyone else. Weld plays Barbara Ann (were the Beach Boys fans?), a teenage temptress who can barely grasp that she is only out to satisfy her own needs, as this selfishness is very nearly beyond her ken, her personality basically operating on a level of survival instinct coupled with her ravenous need for gratification. For some reason, Alan sees her as the epitome of the vulgarity of the age, and adores her for it.

Alan is a curious character himself, and it could be significant that McDowall was aged thirty-seven when he played this high school senior as the point of view here is more of a bad tempered old man shaking his head wearily at the craziness of youth culture. There was always a cynicism about Axelrod's scripts, but he managed to temper it with humour or a clear eyed look at humanity, yet here his target is the sitting duck (if you will) of teenage girls. You wouldn't think it took much to draw up a lampoon of their culture even in 1966, but here you can practically see the beads of sweat forming on the director's brow as he decries the hold that the young and female have on America's culture.

Alan has made up his mind to grant Barbara Ann her every wish, as she confesses to him on that first, special (for him) night that what she wants is to be as popular in this new school as she was in her last. Seeing her happiness as the only way he can achieve his own satisfaction, even if she does not consider him boyfriend material, Alan starts by getting the object of his affection in with the in crowd, and to do this she must secure twelve cashmere sweaters - he tells her he'll make it thirteen. The plan works like a dream, although watching it it comes across as more of a sexual nightmare as Barbara Ann coaxes her divorced dad (Max Showalter) into guiltily buying all those items of clothing by writhing around in them in an orgasmic reverie, something we're disturbed to see he is thoroughly enjoying.

Well, she gets her sweaters and the next stop is quite a leap: she wants to be a movie star. You don't get to that stage overnight, but Alan's schemes are working out with great success as the essential bad taste of the enterprise becomes ever more blatant. Barbara Ann gets engaged to a student of marriage counselling, Bob Bernard (Martin West), yet another pushover for her charms, but after a while Axelrod decides he's had enough of fooling around and gets serious. There are still gags, and some of them are very funny, but it's as if he wants to punish his characters for their lack of self-awareness and puts them all through the mill of suffering. Thankfully, all the cast make this more palatable than it really should have been, with Weld and McDowall putting in sterling perfiormances, backed up by the likes of Ruth Gordon and Harvey Korman (priceless in the botany scene), but the feeling that modern life has gone crazy is not one exclusive to this era, and leaves a sour taste in this setting. Music by Neal Hefti.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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